This project will focus on the performance of<Rain of Flowers along the Silk Road>. <RFSR> is a symbol of Chinese classical dance which represents the Dunhuang culture. Dunhuang culture is a main aspect of Chinese culture and many people have research on it. For details, this drama is the reappearance of silk road. In history, silk road was an very important link that improved the communication between western countries and China. The drama originally debuted at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People on Oct. 1, 1979, and over the past over 30 years it has toured more than 20 countries like Russia, North Korea and USA. It improved the cultural exchange among different countries. In 2008, this drama was rewrote and performed in the Beijing Olympic Games. The new version was first shown to the world, many people speak highly of this drama.
The 1979 version of <RFSR> is a huge success of Chinese performances. What have been the responses of old version? What is the difference of new version? What is the association between the drama and Silk Road? Based on these questions, I will have a deep study on Silk Road and Dunhuang Culture. Finally, I will write a paper to show what I have learnt and state what I have found to the questions list above.
In 2008, the 29th Olympic Games was held in Beijing. For every Olympic Games, it attracts the attention of people all over the world. At the invitation of Ministry of Culture of the People’s Republic of China, a classical national dance drama, <Rain of Flowers along the Silk Road> was performed at the National Center as a part of the cultural celebrations for greeting the opening of the Olympic Games. It was very well received by both Chinese and foreigners.
Since the dance drama <Rain of Flowers along the Silk Road> was first debuted in 1979, it has toured more than 20 countries like USA, France and Russia. This performance tells a story in Tang Dynasty of ancient China. The story takes the world famous Silk Road and the murals of Dunhuang as materials, sings the praise of the glorious images of Yingniang and her father, painter Master Zhang, describe their pure friendship with a Persian businessman, Enus. The play highly praises the deep friendship between Chinese people and foreign peoples, depicts a wise and open dynasty and the frequent international exchanges in the fields of economy and culture. It also weaves a piece of great friendship of song through the ancient, beautiful, innovative and unique style of dance.
The choreography of The Rain of Flowers along the Silk Road was inspired from Dunhuang murals, a famous Buddhist cultural site in western China’s Gansu province. Buddhist monks would paint beautiful pictures on the walls of caves in Dunhuang. The paintings reflected the wide experiences of the monks, who were usually travelers along the Silk Road. The old Dunhuang city was the site of very important Buddhist monastic complexes, the most famous of which was at the Mogao Grottoes, where today one can see a treasure trove of Buddhist art covering a span of more than a millenium. Dunhuang is a very important city in Chinese history. Its name represents a characteristic minority culture in China. When people heard this word, the first thing to their mind is Mogao grottoes and Silk Road. Dunhuang was a prosperous oasis town and a major crossroads stop between China and Central Asia along the historic Silk Road. It was of great importance as a defensive and cultural center on the western borders of the Chinese empire at various points in its history. For many periods of Chinese and Inner Asian history, it marked the western limit of direct Chinese administrative control and military authority. Located near one of the important nodes of the routes across Eurasia, Dunhuang experienced a variety of cultural influences.
Another related point of the drama to Dunhuang culture is the fresco. The rhythms of this drama are very different from other traditional classical dances. In fact, there are many dancing movements come from the frescoes. For details, the drama emphasizes an “S-shape” taken from the Dunhaung murals. Performers use their bodies to assume the shape of an “S” in one of the most graceful sequences in Chinese dances. Mogao Grottoes is a World Heritage Site on the Silk Road, located near Dunhuang in northwestern China. Dating from the fourth to the fourteenth centuries, the ancient Buddhist site contains 492 decorated caves temples excavated into 1.6 kilometers of cliff face. The site includes some 45,000 square meters of wall paintings and over 2,400 polychromed sculptures comprising the largest body of Buddhist art in China. As evidence of the evolution of Buddhist art in the northwest region of China, the Mogao Caves are of unmatched historical value. These works provide an abundance of vivid materials depicting various aspects of medieval politics, economics, culture, arts, religion, ethnic relations, and daily dress in western China. The unique artistic style of Dunhuang art is not only the amalgamation of Han Chinese artistic tradition and styles assimilated from ancient Indian and Gandharan customs, but also an integration of the arts of the Turks, ancient Tibetans and other Chinese ethnic minorities. Many of these masterpieces are creations of an unparalleled aesthetic talent.
The movements of YingNiang’s dance move along the curve, the curve consists of circular arc, while the circular arc is part of circle. The reason why YingNiang’s dance has circle character is that her dance comes from Dunhuang frescoes. The buddhism has many circle characters like the halo on joss’s head, the circle gestures of hands and bodies. It is obvious that the circle character of YingNiang’s dance adopted the art of Buddhism.
29 years ago, the old drama was completely shown in terms of the folk music. After being rewrote, the new version comes with a large number of symphony. Some of the music score were modified, either. To best embody Chinese characteristics, the dance drama includes many musical elements. The special instruments are used to help the characters performed emotionally. When Yingniang became to a singing girl on stage, the main instrument is the Northern ShanXi suona. Suona is special in its tone and can be a best way to perform pleasure and pain. When Yingniang is dancing to earn money, the sounds of suona is cheerful. But when the leader of drama company let Yingniang collect mony from audience, the sounds of suona suddenty become very plaintive. The changes of sound make the audience falling into the true emotion easily.
The using of high technology is a highlight in the new version. The integration of lighting design and stage design, make the atmosphere of plot such as Mogao Grottoes, Crescent lake and ancient Persia more authentic, the face of the whole stage presents a magnificent atmosphere. The modern sound and light technology increase the visual view ability.
The piece also features a Pipa player (a performer who plucks a string instrument with a fretted fingerboard, sort of like a Chinese guitar) who plays the instrument by putting it on her back. This movement comes from the fresco in Mogao cave. The ‘fan tan pi pa’ is considered one of the most beautiful, graceful, and challenging parts in all of Chinese dances. The new version of <Rain of Flowers along the Silk Road> was put into many modern dance elements. The original dance was combined with opera style, the dance of main characters is more personalized. In addition, the group dance is more romantic than the original version.
Two female audience who watched the original version of <Rain of Flowers along the Silk Road> said: “ From the rhythm and the visual effect, the new version shocked us”.